In 2013, Queen Elizabeth II granted a posthumous pardon to British computer pioneer, Alan Turing. This came almost six decades after he was (sadly) convicted of “gross indecency” for having an affair with another man. His conviction overshadowed his significant contributions to the field of theoretical computer science and even put an unfair, early end to his life.
In April 2016, Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada, gave a concise explanation of quantum computing at a theoretical physics research institute, amidst much public applause. The academia and the media welcomed the ease with which the literature graduate engaged with cutting edge scientific research. Much earlier in May 1959, at a similar public event, another public figure called for bridging the widening gap between scientists and “literary intellectuals”. The event was the annual Rede lecture at the University of Cambridge and the speaker was influential physical chemist and novelist Charles Percy Snow.
As a scientist, CP Snow had collaborated with Lord Rutherford (“the father of nuclear physics”) in the Cavendish Laboratory, beginning in 1928. CP Snow gained greater recognition as a novelist in the 1930s and later in public office, becoming (among other things) the United Kingdom’s government spokesperson on technology in the House of Lords in 1964. But it was CP Snow’s Rede lecture of 1959 and the public debate it spawned that gave him prominence in science and public policy, and continues to generate discussion even half a century later. The fiftieth anniversary printing of The Two Cultures with an introduction by Stefan Collini gives us an opportunity to revisit CP Snow’s notion that our society is threatened by a “destructive” lack of understanding between two “cultures”.Continue reading “Revisiting the two cultures”→
The biggest crack in the glass ceiling this year (apart from Hilary Clinton’s nomination as Democratic candidate in the upcoming US elections!) is the reboot of the 1984 supernatural comedy, “Ghostbusters”. The July 2016 release has received positive reviews and also ringing in the cash register. But the movie has also been in the news for an altogether different reason – its trailer is among the most disliked videos ever on YouTube.
It was quickly realized that there was an almost coordinated effort by the “Ghostbros”, the male admirers of the original, who could not bear the “blasphemy” of a reboot with an all-female cast. The re-imagining of the Ghostbusters as a team of super-intelligent, gadget-wielding, ghost-hunting, gal-pals was simply too much for the “fan-boys” of the 1984 original. The fans felt it was reason enough to spoil the movie’s chances at the box office.